Top 20 Songs for Dec 31, 2017-January 6, 2018

1. WITHOUT YOU – Disciples of Babylon (1)
2. KINKY – Oli Barton & the Movement (3)
4. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (2)
5. I LOVE YOU BUT I’M LOST – Tears For Fears (4)
6. LIVE IN THE MOMENT – Portugal.The Man (11)
7. RX(MEDICATE) – Theory of a Deadman (10)
8. ANGELA – The Lumineers (12)
9. NO ROOTS – Alice Merton (13)
10. SOBER UP – AJR ft. Rivers Cuomo (14)
11. LOVING YOU IS SO EASY – Wide Eyed Boy (6) 19th week on list
12. LAY ME DOWN – Candid (8)
14. THE SKY IS A NEIGHBORHOOD – Foo Fighters (7)
15. I ONLY LIE WHEN I LOVE YOU – Royal Blood (17)
17. SAFARI SONG – Greta Van Fleet (20)
18. HIGHWAY TUNE – Greta Van Fleet (15)
19. SO TIED UP – Cold War Kids, Bishop Briggs (16) 19th week on list
20. SCARY LOVE – The Neighbourhood (N)

100 Best Songs of 2017

2017 was an especially emotional year in music, due to the tragic suicides of two of rock’s most important and beloved artists: Chris Cornell, front man of Soundgarden and Audioslave, as well as a successful solo artist, and Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. I, along with millions of their collective fans, are still heartbroken over their untimely deaths. Other notable passings include the legendary Chuck BerryFats Domino, Al Jarreau, Gregg Allman, J. Geils, Tom Petty, Glen Campbell, Malcolm Young, Prodigy, David Cassidy, Della Reese, Mel Tillis and Keely Smith.

As with every year, a number of new or breakthrough artists emerged on the music scene, and two of my favorites were Greta Van Fleet and Liverpool, UK foursome Wide Eyed Boy. Other good ones who finally had huge breakout hits include Portugal. The Man, Highly Suspect, Sir Sly, MISSIO and Mondo Cozmo to name but a few. There were a great many albums released, and there was no way I could listen to them all, but I sure gave it my best! A few standouts for me were A Deeper Understanding by The War on Drugs, Hot Thoughts by Spoon, Villains by Queens of the Stone Age, LA DIVINE by Cold War Kids, Sacred Hearts Club by Foster the People, The Rise and Fall of Babylon by Disciples of Babylon, and Into the Back Room by Oli Barton & the Movement. I also recognize the artistic and cultural significance of Kendrick Lamar’s highly-acclaimed DAMN..

My music tastes, while eclectic, lean toward Alternative Rock, Hard Rock, Folk-Rock, Punk, R&B and Pop-Rock, so my Top 100 song choices generally reflect those genres. Followers of my blog know I publish a Weekly Top 20, and how songs ranked on those weekly lists, as well as how long they spent in the top 20, generally helps determine their year-end ranking. I invariably come across some great songs late in the year that I somehow missed earlier, and thus never appeared on my Weekly Top 20, so I’ve included those. There were so many fantastic songs in 2017, and it frustrated me to have to cut my favorites down to only 100. All the songs on this list could easily be in the top 40.

Some of the year’s most popular hits – the ubiquitous “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi, et. al., the horrific “Bodak Yellow” by Cardi B, or many of the other shitty rap, hip hop, pop and bro country songs that topped the Billboard Hot 100 Chart – will not be found on my list.

Many bloggers and critics list songs in the year they were released, while Billboard and other charts generally place them in the year they were ‘hits,’ which is what I prefer. Most of the songs on this list were released in 2017, however, a number of them were released in 2016, and Lord Huron’s “The Night We Met” is from 2015, but didn’t chart until 2017. Because there are always a few songs that overlap from one year to the next, I always wrestle with how to rank them, as well as whether to list them in only one year or two. It seems the fairest thing to do is include those songs on lists for both years if they spent enough time on the charts in each year, although it can diminish their ranking on each list. For example, The Weeknd’s “Starboy” spent the last two weeks of 2016 and the first week of 2017 at #1, so how to rank it on each list is a dilemma, and I’m seldom pleased with the outcome. The songs in this Top 100 that also appeared on the list for 2016 are indicated with an *

OK, I’ve rambled on long enough, so let’s get to the songs already!

1. FEEL IT STILL – Portugal. The Man
“Feel It Still” is one of those songs that virtually everyone loves, thanks to an irresistibly catchy retro dance beat and deep bass line, that awesome little guitar riff, and lead singer John Gourley’s delightful falsetto. It’s a short track, only 2 minutes and 43 seconds long, but was a massive hit for Portugal. The Man, spending an astonishing 18 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Alternative Chart, as well as many weeks at #1 on the Adult Alternative and Adult Pop charts.  The band, now based in Portland, Oregon (they refer to themselves as ‘Lords of Portland’) is originally from Wasilla, Alaska. They released a number of albums since forming in 2004, but “Feel It Still,” from their album Woodstock, was their breakthrough single. It’s a fantastic song and an instant classic.

2. MY NAME IS HUMAN – Highly Suspect
I fucking love this song! “My Name is Human” features some of the best guitar work of any song on this list (after Metallica’s “Atlas, Rise!”). The heavy, gravelly bass riff at the opening sends shivers down my spine, then spooky guitars, percussion and otherworldly synths enter along with Johnny Stevens’ intense, breathtaking vocals that go from seductive to wailing, adding goosebumps to the ones already covering my body. The track is perfection from start to finish. It was released in September 2016 in advance of release of their superb album The Boy Who Died Wolf, and debuted on my Weekly Top 20 at the end of November, but peaked at #1 in late January-early February, so lands on my Top 100 of 2017. The song’s brilliant video showing a human being built by robots and then given finishing touches by Stevens is a little creepy, yet stylish and riveting.

3. THE MAN – The Killers
I’m a huge fan of The Killers, so was thrilled when they released “The Man,” in advance of their first studio album in over five years Wonderful, Wonderful. Though it received mixed reviews from critics and bloggers, I love it, and it spent five weeks at #1 on my Weekly Top 20. I love how the song winds up at the beginning, then explodes into a pounding dance beat courtesy of Ronnie Vannucci’s power drums. Throw in a sturdy bass line, sweeping synths and Brandon Flowers’ soaring tenor vocals, and you’ve got a fun, exhilarating track. I also love when Flowers pays homage to David Bowie late in the song with the line “headed for the hall of…FAME!” The fantastically entertaining video shows Flowers playing several different characters who are full of themselves, all thinking they’re ‘the man’.

From their critically acclaimed seventh studio album Sleep Well Beast, “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” is a gorgeous song by The National. The piano and gnarly guitar riffs, accompanied by an urgent drumbeat, are captivating, and when combined with singer Matt Berninger’s stunning, heartfelt baritone vocals, The National deliver a truly phenomenal track.

5. HUMAN – Rag’n’Bone Man
A magnificent, powerfully moving song with a gospel feel, “Human” was a huge, breakout hit for UK singer/songwriter Rag’n’Bone Man (born Rory Charles Graham). The song was released in July 2016, but didn’t chart in the U.S. until early 2017. It reached #1 in many countries, including Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Poland and Slovakia, as well as the Billboard Alternative and Adult Alternative charts. (Shockingly, it peaked at only #74 on the Billboard Hot 100 – a chart that’s been taken over by mostly hip-hop, country and bad pop, and thus now irrelevant to me.)

6. HIGHWAY TUNE – Greta Van Fleet
Greta Van Fleet literally blast through the speakers like an atom bomb with “Highway Tune.” ‘Wow, just wow!’ was my – and apparently everyone else’s – reaction upon first hearing this explosive head-banger from the young Michigan foursome. The band consists of the three Kiszka brothers Josh, Jake and Sam (Josh and Jake are twins), and drummer Danny Wagner, all of whom are in their late teens or early twenties. Despite their youth, these guys are highly skilled musicians, and lead vocalist Josh – a diminutive guy with a gargantuan bluesy voice – sounds disarmingly like an early Robert Plant. These guys are destined for greatness! Take a listen:

7.  HIGH – Sir Sly
There are a lot of humans and ‘H’ songs in my top 10, and another is the exuberant “High” by L.A. band Sir Sly. Led by a dominant buzzing bass line, the track lives up to its title, bopping along with a snappy dance beat and a cascade of jangly guitars. I love this gem, and the delightfully trippy video is my absolute favorite of 2017. How can anyone not like this band and song after watching them dancing about like marionettes channeling Cirque du Soleil! It’s all so deliriously upbeat, leaving us feeling – well, ‘high’.

8. SO TIED UP – Cold War Kids featuring Bishop Briggs
Cold War Kids are another one of my favorite bands, and Bishop Briggs is pretty awesome too, with a distinctive, powerhouse voice. So, combining her passionate vocals with those of Cold War Kids lead singer Nathan Willett results in auditory fireworks to match the biting lyrics about a destructive co-dependent relationship you can’t escape. I loved this hard-hitting song at first listen and never tired of hearing it.

9. HOLDING ON – The War on Drugs
I fell in love with the music of The War on Drugs a few years ago after I heard their mesmerizing song “Red Eyes.” So it was natural that I’d love their gorgeous epic track “Holding On” from their outstanding album A Deeper Understanding. Having six band members, including two guitarists, two keyboardists – one of whom also plays sax, a bassist and a drummer, gives their music a lush, full sound. The piano, guitar and synths on “Holding On” are stunning, and singer Adam Granduciel’s sublime vocals bear a striking resemblance to Bob Dylan.

10. SIGN OF THE TIMES – Harry Styles
Since the breakup of One Direction, each of the individual members have released their own material, some of it fairly respectable. But to me, the greatest single by far has been “Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles. The deeply moving anthem aims straight for the heartstrings, and blew me away the moment I first heard it. The song gives ample proof of Styles’ singing talent, and how much he’s grown as an artist, both vocally and stylistically. The song starts off with a somber piano movement then, with tremendous emotion in his voice, Harry begins to sing “Just stop you’re crying, it’s a sign of the times. Welcome to the final show. Hope you’re wearing your best clothes.” He may be admonishing us to not cry, but boy it’s hard not to! His voice rises to a tender falsetto before the song bursts open with sweeping orchestration. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Harry explained that “Sign of the Times” is from the point of view of a mother giving birth to a child, but there’s a complication whereby the child is fine, but she’s not going to make it. “The mother has five minutes to tell the child, Go forth and conquer.

I really thought that given the immense popularity of One Direction and each of the individual members, this song would spend many weeks at #1, but I was wrong. It debuted on the Hot 100 Chart at #4, then quickly dropped off, which shocked and disappointed me. I guess it just didn’t click with very many of the young teens whose tastes dominate the charts, and seem to prefer bad pop and hip hop over quality songs with thoughtful lyrics.

11. CLEOPATRA – The Lumineers
13. LOVING YOU IS SO EASY – Wide Eyed Boy
14. SHINE – Mondo Cozmo
15. LOVE ON THE BRAIN – Rihanna
16. ON HOLD – The xx
17. WOLVES – Wide Eyed Boy
18. HOT THOUGHTS – Spoon
19. 24K MAGIC – Bruno Mars *
20. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People
21. UNFORGETTABLE – French Montana ft. Swae Lee
22. RUN – Foo Fighters
23. THE NIGHT WE MET – Lord Huron
24. BELIEVER – Imagine Dragons
26. WITHOUT YOU – Disciples of Babylon
27. THE WAY YOU USED TO DO – Queens of the Stone Age
28. ATLAS, RISE! – Metallica
30. HEAVYDIRTYSOUL – twenty øne piløts
31. LOVE IS MYSTICAL – Cold War Kids
32. EVERYTHING NOW – Arcade Fire
33. STARBOY – The Weeknd, Daft Punk * (#17 song of 2016)
34. SUIT AND JACKET – Judah & the Lion
35. DOING IT FOR THE MONEY – Foster the People
36. LITTLE ONE – Highly Suspect
37. SHAPE OF YOU – Ed Sheeran
41. BLAME – Bastille
44. J-BOY – Phoenix
45. DON’T TAKE THE MONEY – Bleachers
46. I LOVE YOU BUT I’M LOST – Tears For Fears
47. GREEN LIGHT – Lorde
48. HOW DID YOU LOVE – Shinedown
49. DON’T WANNA KNOW – Maroon 5 ft. Kendrick Lamar
50. SOMETHING JUST LIKE THIS – The Chainsmokers, Coldplay
52. WALK ON WATER – 30 Seconds to Mars
53. MONSTER – Starset
54. RUST TO GOLD – Council
55. I NEED A LIGHT – Run With It
56. BLACK BEATLES – Rae Sremmurd w/Gucci Mane
57. TAKE IT ALL BACK – Judah & the Lion
58. COLD COLD COLD – Cage the Elephant
59. IN COLD BLOOD – alt-J
61. WISH I KNEW YOU – The Revivalists *
62. LIGHTS OUT – Royal Blood
63. 7 – Catfish and the Bottlemen
64. KINKY – Oli Barton & the Movement
66. ONE OF US – New Politics
67. REDBONE – Childish Gambino
68. UP ALL NIGHT – Beck
69. SILENT SUN – Morning Fuzz
70. NO ROOTS – Alice Merton
71. BEFORE THE END – Fiction Peaks
72. NO SLEEP – Vox Eagle
73. LAY ME DOWN – Candid
74. CALIFORNIA DREAMING – Hollywood Undead
75. REVEREND – Kings of Leon
76. DIG DOWN – Muse
78. SHINE ON ME – Dan Auerbach
79. COLD LITTLE HEART – Michael Kiwanuka
80. SORRY – Nothing But Thieves
83. WHO’S GONNA SAVE US NOW – Crystal Cities
84. XXX. FEAT. U2 – Kendrick Lamar ft. U2
85. GIVE ME REASON TO DIE – Dyslexic Postcards
86. SONG #3 – Stone Sour
87. JUDAS – Fozzy
88. THAT’S WHAT I LIKE – Bruno Mars
89. NOT JUST YOU – The Puss Puss Band
90. IT’S A TRIP! – Joywave
91. WHAT ABOUT US – P!nk
92. COME OVER – Vox Eagle
93. LAY IT ON ME – Vance Joy
94. THE VIOLENCE – Rise Against
95. THUNDER – Imagine Dragons
96. GOSPEL – Raker
97. SIK’ HELLISH US – Cold Revive
98. SMOKE AND MIRRORS – Morosity
99. I FEEL IT COMING – The Weeknd, Daft Punk
100. THE ONE I WANT – The Trims

Top 20 Songs for December 24-30, 2017

1. WITHOUT YOU – Disciples of Babylon (2)
2. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (1)
3. KINKY – Oli Barton & the Movement (8)
4. I LOVE YOU BUT I’M LOST – Tears For Fears (5)
6. LOVING YOU IS SO EASY – Wide Eyed Boy (3)
7. THE SKY IS A NEIGHBORHOOD – Foo Fighters (4)
8. LAY ME DOWN – Candid (9)
10. RX(MEDICATE) – Theory of a Deadman (11)
11. LIVE IN THE MOMENT – Portugal. The Man (17)
12. ANGELA – The Lumineers (13)
13. NO ROOTS – Alice Merton (15)
14. SOBER UP – AJR ft. Rivers Cuomo (16)
15. HIGHWAY TUNE – Greta Van Fleet (7)
16. SO TIED UP – Cold War Kids ft. Bishop Briggs (12)
17. I ONLY LIE WHEN I LOVE YOU – Royal Blood (18)
19. WALK ON WATER – 30 Seconds to Mars (14)
20. SAFARI SONG – Greta Van Fleet (N)

ADAM COMPTON – Single Review: “Waste a Weekday”

Adam Compton

Adam Compton is a singer/songwriter based in Stevenage, UK, and he just dropped a lovely new single “Waste a Weekday.” The song is a follow up to his excellent debut EP Believe, released earlier this year. Adam also plays in the band Trouble With Tuesday, but wanted to record some of his songs as an acoustic solo act.

“Waste a Weekday” is an uplifting song about just forgetting the outside world and spending a quiet romantic day at home with a loved one. The track has a folk-rock feel, with acoustic guitar that goes from gentle strumming to exuberant and jangly. Smooth, sweeping violin and crisp percussion add subtle dramatic effect that never overpowers. Adam’s pleasing tenor vocals are earnest as he sings:

And we can pretend the world outside don’t exist, yeah
We’re talking over who is gonna have to get the biscuits
To dunk in our tea while we’re binge watching Netflix
We can go outside but why would I do that?
Rather stay in bed watching “Orange is the New Black”
And if I went to work, then I know I’d have to leave her
Being reclusive, ’cause you’re my favorite person to waste a weekday with

Connect with Adam:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify & Soundcloud
Purchase on iTunes & Amazon

Top 20 Songs for December 17-23, 2017

1. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (2)
2. WITHOUT YOU – Disciples of Babylon (3)
3. LOVING YOU IS SO EASY – Wide Eyed Boy (1)
4. THE SKY IS A NEIGHBORHOOD – Foo Fighters (4)
5. I LOVE YOU BUT I’M LOST – Tears For Fears (6)
7. HIGHWAY TUNE – Greta Van Fleet (5)
8. KINKY – Oli Barton & the Movement (9)
9. LAY ME DOWN – Candid (11)
11. RX(MEDICATE) – Theory of a Deadman (13)
12. SO TIED UP – Cold War Kids ft. Bishop Briggs (8)
13. ANGELA – The Lumineers (16)
14. WALK ON WATER – 30 Seconds to Mars (10)
15. NO ROOTS – Alice Merton (15)
16. SOBER UP – AJR ft. Rivers Cuomo (18)
17. LIVE IN THE MOMENT – Portugal. The Man (20)
18. I ONLY LIE WHEN I LOVE YOU – Royal Blood (17)
19. UP ALL NIGHT – Beck (14)

NO MIND STATE – Single Review: “Hold Me Back, I’m Leaving”

No Mind State 3

No Mind State is an alternative rock band from Oslo, Norway, and they’ve released their first single “Hold Me Back, I’m Leaving.” It’s an exciting track, and an auspicious debut for the band. Making the music are Henrik Posèbo Sørebø (Guitar, lead vocals), Vetle Berthelsen (Lead Guitar), Vegard Tveito (Bass, backing vocals) and Christian Gathe (Drums). From some of their photos, as well as posts on Instagram, the guys have a strong sense of humor, something I always find appealing in a band.

The song is hard-hitting, melodic rock at its finest. Henrik and Vetle lay down energetic riffs of gritty guitars over Vegard’s driving bass line, while Christian forcefully pounds out the beat with his thumping drums and a barrage of crashing cymbals. Henrik’s sultry, aggressive vocals are impassioned and raw as he sings the lyrics that speak to knowing you should get out of a dysfunctional relationship, but not being able to escape:

Hold me back, I’m leaving
Couldn’t shake off the feeling of being wrong, but that’s alright.
Drag me down, I’m breathing
Suffocation’s relieving, feels so right but I am wrong
Raise the bridge and shackle me then I’ll be here for you
Don’t dare to rest an eye, or you know the end is nigh
Lock the door and throw the key, then I’ll be here for you
Build a castle for the night, know its wrong but that’s alright

Connect with No Mind State:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music on Spotify or purchase on iTunes

JOHNNY KOWALSKI AND THE SEXY WEIRDOS – Album Review: “European English”

European English

Being the EclecticMusicLover, I enjoy a wide variety of music genres, and have a special appreciation for artists and bands that meld lots of different influences in the creation of their music. Well, Johnny Kowalski and the Sexy Weirdos – a self-described “body-snatching carnival punk band” from Birmingham, UK – are eclectic on steroids! And, honestly, who could possibly resist a band called ‘The Sexy Weirdos?!’ Fusing Celtic, Balkan and Gypsy folk melodies with reggae, ska, mariachi, punk and rock’n’roll, they create a uniquely eccentric sound that’s totally original and deliriously entertaining.

Like many bands, they’ve undergone some changes in membership over the years since forming in 2009. The current lineup consists of frontman Johnny Kowalski (Vocals, Lead Guitar), Chris Yates (Bass), Ilias Lintzos (Percussion), John-Joe Murray (Violin), Matthew Osborne (Drums) and Katie Stevens (Clarinet, Tenor Sax). They released their debut album Victory for the Monsters in 2012, and followed two years later with Kill the Beast. In October, they dropped their third album European English, an extraordinary work that reflects their experiences touring across Europe, as well as time spent amongst Romani gypsies and artists in Josefov, Czech Republic, where many of the album’s songs were written.

Sexy Weirdos2

Things get off to a rousing start with “Megahorse,” a lively tune that conjures up images of a Yiddish folk dance, and sets the overall tone for the album. A careful listen reveals a rich diversity of instruments at play, most notably guitar, violin, and a chirping clarinet, anchored by thumping bass and a frantic drumbeat. In his distinctive spirited vocal style, Kowalski sounds like he’s singing at a Jewish wedding as he wails “If everyone thinks it, it must be right, ’cause everyone can’t be wrong. The lies that we fight to feel safe at night, are the lies that help keep us strong.”

The band’s sense of playful silliness and love of camp is charmingly evident on the zany video, as they take turns dancing to the song (with varying amounts of success).

A seductive Latin-infused bass line introduces us to “Relative Rudeboy,” then a playful violin and drumbeat ensue, accentuated by Stevens’ jaunty sax and a bit of cowbell thrown in for good measure. It all makes for a fun romp that’ll have even the biggest wallflower on their feet. The hips keep swaying with the infectious “Serbian Rumba.” Murray’s sultry violin takes a starring role, and Kowalski’s low, smoldering vocals are a delight as he sings: “Why should I be thinking of you right now? Not in this place and not in this time. And now he will preach at me for a long eternity. And I will be forced to agree, that I’m an asshole yes I see.”

The band evokes the Scottish Highlands with a bit of a gypsy vibe on the exuberant instrumental “Sicilian Stallion.” I love the festive violin, flute and electric guitar work, all propelled forward by a peppy drumbeat. They keep the energy flowing with the “Minor Calamity” and bouncy “Didn’t Find the Money.”

Raggadub (Manifesto in Three Parts)” is an interesting and complex track, with added dubstep and hip-hop elements, courtesy of guest artists Anne-Marie Allen, Smut Rakhra and Jugganaut. The first part beckons us to feel a connection with each other and the earth through music and dance: “Mother earth and sister of soul. Feel that connection and let your body roll.” Part two speaks to social injustice and corruption: “Idled masses yearn to breathe free. Fat on bread for 26p. A trace of fruit, sugar and bleach. Fluoride toothpaste from the pharmacy. Rotisserie chicken is pumped with fat. The sanctity of life is on a wire rack.” The vocals in the frenetic third part are sung so fast I couldn’t understand them, but it’s certainly a climactic end to an amazing track!

The lively instrumental track “Matthew, Matthew” brings an explosion of fluttering clarinet, violin, guitar and crashing cymbals. Kowalski seems to channel the late Joe Strummer on the boisterous “Flight of the Juniper,” which to my ears sounds like a song that could have been done by The Clash. The guitar work on this short but powerful track is wonderful.

Closing out the album is the captivating, psychedelic-tinged “Chinese Icicles,” a real tour-de-force and one of the standout tracks. The violin in all its forms takes center stage, with electric guitar in a strong co-starring role. The band employs all sorts of exotic instruments to lend a mysterious Asian vibe to an essentially hard rock track. The song is so compelling it seems shorter than its five and a half minute length. It’s a dramatic finish to a remarkable album, which you can listen to here:

Connect with the band:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music on Spotify and purchase on Bandcamp

Top 20 Songs for December 10-16, 2017

1. LOVING YOU IS SO EASY – Wide Eyed Boy (1)
2. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (4)
3. WITHOUT YOU – Disciples of Babylon (5)
4. THE SKY IS A NEIGHBORHOOD – Foo Fighters (6)
5. HIGHWAY TUNE – Greta Van Fleet (2)
6. I LOVE YOU BUT I’M LOST – Tears For Fears (9)
8. SO TIED UP – Cold War Kids ft. Bishop Briggs (3)
9. KINKY – Oli Barton & the Movement (10)
10. WALK ON WATER – 30 Seconds to Mars (7)
11. LAY ME DOWN – Candid (12)
13. RX(MEDICATE) – Theory of a Deadman (14)
14. UP ALL NIGHT – Beck (16)
15. NO ROOTS – Alice Merton (11)
16. ANGELA – The Lumineers (18)
17. I ONLY LIE WHEN I LOVE YOU – Royal Blood (17)
18. SOBER UP – AJR ft. Rivers Cuomo (20)
19. THUNDER – Imagine Dragons (15)
20. LIVE IN THE MOMENT – Portugal. The Man (N)

SKINNY WIZARD – Single Review: “Phantom Pain”

Skinny Wizard builds houses by day, but come nightfall his musician alter-ego takes over. Based in Phoenix, Arizona, Skinny Wizard – whose given name is Bill Cherry – is a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who began playing guitar at the age of six.  As he tells in his bio “I took it seriously during my high school years, but then I moved away from home and life took over. I didn’t really understand how the music industry worked and it was easier to make money building houses to make someone else rich.” It’s a sentiment I’m sure a lot of musicians can attest to.

Now that he and his wife are empty-nesters, Skinny has taken up his six-string again, and gotten back to expressing himself through his music. He plays mostly folk and blues-rock, genres he seems most comfortable with as a solo artist. He’s just released a new single “Phantom Pain,” a moving song he felt he had to write to honor the death of a friend from suicide.

The track starts out with sounds like being in a thunderstorm or possibly a subway train, then he begins strumming his acoustic guitar and singing the honest, heartfelt lyrics expressing bittersweet feelings of pain over the loss of a good friend:

I woke last night and I thought I heard you talking
But that’s absurd ’cause you’ve been gone over a year
And I remember all the good things we done together
A new definition for a thing called Phantom Pain
And that’s the way it goes sometimes you don’t know what life brings
You just keep pressing on in spite of all the odds
I hope to see you again someday

He has a casual, pleasing style of guitar playing, and though not overly strong, his vocals are well-suited for a gentle folk ballad like “Phantom Pain.” Check it out:

Connect with Skinny Wizard:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Purchase “Phantom Pain” on cdbaby

DRAFT EVADER – Single Review: “The Devil’s Disguise”

One of my objectives in writing this blog is giving exposure to indie artists and bands, many of whom are struggling to get their music heard by a wider audience. Today I feature the young singer/songwriter Ryan Loree, who goes by the artistic name Draft Evader. Following up on his debut single “Blue Lies,” which he released in June 2017, he dropped a new single “The Devil’s Disguise” in October.

Draft Evader

Based in Chicago, Draft Evader plays straight-up rock’n’roll with a hint of punk. When I asked him about his moniker, he explained the he was not happy about our current President (neither am I) and “the name ‘Draft Evader’ was kind of like a middle finger to the whole system, kind of like ‘you can’t tell me what to do.’ So in a sense it means freedom. Freedom to be who you are and do what you love, no matter what anyone says.

He writes his songs and records them with his good friend Joe Scaletta. He explained their process in developing songs: “I write all the songs by myself at home, so I’ll come into the studio with lyrics and rhythm guitars done and from that we’ll lay down the base of the song. Then we start working on the drums together (there’s a shortage of drummers around here so unfortunately we write them together using the computer). Next we’ll take care of the bass, and Joe happens to be a bassist so I let him take the reigns on that unless I know exactly what I want the bass to do. After that we’ll add some guitar leads or maybe I’ll improvise a solo in the bridge of the song. Then I’ll jump in the vocal booth and try to sing/scream to the best of my ability. Very simple stuff until I get a full band going.

“The Devil’s Disguise” is a hard-hitting rock song with biting lyrics about suffering from personal turmoil and demons that have caused him to commit violence, and wanting an escape from the environment he inhabits, hoping it might help him change:

I’m turning my back on sweet home Chicago
Packed up too fast and blew out my ankle
I’m letting go of all the get to know
I’m stuck in place staring out the window
There’s blood on the streets of downtown Chicago
There’s death in the air and holes in the windows
There’s ghosts in my head digging a deep hole
There’s demons inside slowing my blood blow

The devil’s disguise hiding in plain site
Seein’ through evil eyes
Live my life in disguise
Pushin’ through trying times
Shedding my disguise

Musically, the track is well-crafted, with some excellent riffs of shredded guitars, anchored by a solid buzzing bass line and crisp percussion. Draft Evader’s vocals are earnest, with a hint of melancholia that befits the dark lyrics. All in all, a fine effort from a young artist who I believe has a lot of promise. He writes thoughtful and compelling lyrics, has a good grasp on song structure and production, and plays a mean guitar.

Connect with Draft Evader:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

His songs may be streamed on Spotify and purchased on Bandcamp or itunes